Don?t blame me

By TOBY WALKER

THE New South Wales Roads Minister Joe Tripodi has said he is well aware of the study predictions that foresee gridlock bringing traffic to a standstill on the Grafton Bridge within 20 years.

Mr Tripodi continues to blame a $298 million reduction in federal roads funding for forcing the State Government to renege on its 'ironclad' promise of a new bridge in Grafton for at least four more years.

The Daily Examiner has made several attempts to speak with Mr Tripodi about the controversial decision since he signed the Iemma Government up to the Austlink deal on October 1.

But his political staffers said the Minister had been kept busy trying to mitigate the public outrage over the high tolls on Sydney's new crosscity tunnel and that they would do their best to arrange an interview.

Yesterday, a spokesman for Mr Tripodi was asked how the State Government arrived at the $298 million figure.

"The Federal Government has walked away from adequately funding NSW major projects," the spokesman said.

"As a result, NSW will have to find an additional $298 million to fund the shortfall in funding.

"The Federal Government has determined the Auslink national network but has failed to fund major upgrades for the full cost of projects.

"The Federal Government used to fund 100 per cent of the project cost.

"However, the Federal Government is funding 80 per cent for most projects.

"The four-year Auslink deal sees the Federal Government reduce funding levels for maintenance, and stops the funding of safety and urgent minor works, forcing NSW to make up these funding shortfalls by delaying or reducing funding to other projects.

"This is because Auslink means the States have to foot the bills for maintenance and safety works, which used to be funded by the Commonwealth."

Mr Tripodi's political opponents have accused him of using the funding issues in the Auslink deal to divert attention away from his own government's budget crisis.



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